Friday, June 28, 2013

How to respond to a negative online review

Multi-million dollar business have folded due to the effects on negative online publicity, but not from the media - from the consumers themselves. One bad experience can create a ripple effect that can fracture or destroy your company's reputation. With consumer review sites such as Yelp, Merchant Circle or HotFrog and social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, one bad review can be circulated to a countless audience of potential customers for years to come. If your company has received a negative review online, do not panic and by all means, make sure you respond and react in an appropriate manner. 

Two years ago, my wife and I were looking into taking a vacation and checking out some hotels that were in the area. There was one in particular that sounded like it would be a perfect experience for us. While researching how close it would be to some of the attractions that we wanted to visit, I tossed the address into Google maps and up popped their profile and reviews. I typically take consumer reviews with a grain of salt, especially if there is only one or two bad reviews. Why? A handful of bad reviews from the thousands of customers that have used a business service or product is not always the best indicator on what your experience will be. We all know that satisfied customers thank you and move on. Many turn into repeat business and a very small percentage will actually search out the review boards and leave their accolades for you. On the other hand, a disgruntled customer will almost without a doubt make it their mission to bad mouth you to anyone and everyone that will listen. That was the case with this particular hotel. They had 3 negative reviews. While I admit to not putting too much thought into such a small amount of negative reviews ... that doesn't mean that I am not curious. So I clicked on the reviews and what I read floored me. 

A family had recently stayed at the property and had a negative experience from the time they checked in until they checked out. Some of the things the reviewer mentioned are out of the hands of the hotel such as the noise coming from the highway, the "animal sounds of passion" coming from the room next to them and the weather. It would be different if the complaints would have been about the staff, condition of the room, lack of amenities or safety concerns. What followed their negative review was nothing short of a PR disaster. The owner of the hotel decided to take the initiative to blast and insult the customer to the point where he actually said and I can't even make this up "If you ever decide to come back please let me know so I can dismantle the smoke alarms and evacuate the hotel while you are sleeping". He stopped short of saying why he would evacuate all of the guests except for this family and dismantle the smoke alarms, but it was pretty clear where he was headed. I couldn't believe what I read. Did this guy really just say that in response to a relatively harmless review? Does he know that as soon as you hit submit, there is no backtracking and your words remain online until the end of time? Needless to say, we found another hotel to stay at and had a great time! How hard would it have been to simply say that "We apologize for the experience that you recently had while being our guests. Your comfort is our top concern and while we cannot control the weather, we would have gladly recommended some local indoor attractions that your family could have enjoyed while on your vacation". It would have been so easy to turn the review around and let the customer know that you and your staff would have gladly accommodated them if they would have just asked. 

The second mistake that many businesses make when they get a negative review is to "fluff" the review sites with fake reviews. Bad Idea! This can cause more damage to you in the long run. There are no shortage of companies out there offering to sell you positive reviews. One such company has recently found themselves in a lawsuit with Yelp. Avoid this type of image recovery at all costs. You do not want to find yourself flagged as an offender on any review sites. Take your lumps and move on. If possible, respond to the negative review and offer a resolution. If you have received a bad review and not sure how to respond ... give us a call or visit us online and we will be glad to provide you with your own personalized disaster recovery plan. 

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